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‘Darkest day’: Democrats seethe as checkpoint bill clears way for mainland law at new Hong Kong rail station

The passage of the joint checkpoint bill following a Legislative Council vote on Thursday night was met with strong condemnation by pro-democracy lawmakers, who accused the council’s president Andrew Leung of using “brute force” tactics to get the bill approved.

joint checkpoint bill results

Photo: LegCo.

The bill was put to a vote at around 10pm on Thursday when a time limit put into place by Leung was set to expire. He had expelled five democrats the day before and refused to let them re-enter for the vote.

It was passed with 40 votes “for” and 20 votes “against” with one abstention.

The pro-democracy camp, as well as the Hong Kong Bar Association, have deemed the bill unconstitutional as Hong Kong is set to effectively give up jurisdiction across a quarter of the new West Kowloon terminal, where immigration and customs procedures will be performed by mainland agents. The arrangement was intended for faster clearance so that passengers would not have to leave the train at the border.

Pro-democracy lawmakers outside legislative council building after joint checkpoint bill vote

Student representatives outside the legislature on Thursday. Photo: InMediahk.net.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a statement that the bill’s passage was a “big step” towards opening the  HK$84.4 billion Express Rail Link (XRL) in September this year.

“[The bill] provides a sound legal basis for the co-location arrangement, fully unleashing the transport, economic and social benefits of the XRL,” Lam said.

Frank Chan express rail link joint checkpoint bill vote

Housing chief Frank Chan. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan welcomed the bill at the legislature moments after it passed, saying the rail link will be a “strong foundation for cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland” and provide “infinite business opportunities for the younger generation.”

Chan was interrupted by pro-democracy lawmakers who shouted “Shame on Frank Chan” as they tore up copies of the bill.

Pro-democracy camp convener Charles Mok said Leung and pro-Beijing lawmakers were working in tandem to suppress the voices of pro-democracy lawmakers.

“This is the darkest day in LegCo in recent years, probably since the Tsoi Yuen village protest [in 2010]. Tonight we saw an unconstitutional bill being violently passed, and we also saw the Legislative Council president cooperating with pro-establishment lawmakers,” Mok said.

Mok added that the pro-democracy camp would continue to monitor the implementation of the Express Rail Link and was looking to issue a joint statement soon.

Pro-democracy lawmakers outside legislative chamber after joint checkpoint bill vote

Pro-democracy lawmakers speaking after the bill passed. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP

The pro-democracy lawmakers proceeded to address the rally outside the Legislative Council building after voting concluded.

The rally drew about 200 people earlier in the evening, with another 20 pro-Beijing counter-protesters, though the crowd dwindled to about 50 after 10pm.

Pro-democracy lawmakers outside legislative council building after joint checkpoint bill vote

Pro-democracy lawmakers speaking to the rally outside the LegCo building. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP

Lawmaker Fernando Cheung said the passage of the joint checkpoint bill might set a bad precedent and encourage further high-pressure tactics in the Legislative Council. He also said that the government was not serious about responding to legislators’ queries since only Secretary of Transport and Housing Frank Chan was in attendance whilst the Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng was not.

When asked about the possibility of a judicial review, Mok said that the pro-democracy camp was considering it and seeking legal advice. Mok said a legal challenge was a “substantial possibility,” but one undecided issue was who should be the party to start legal proceedings.

outside legislative council building after joint checkpoint bill vote pro-beijing protester

Pro-Beijing protesters outside the legislature. Photo: InMediahk.net.

Lawmaker Tanya Chan – who is also the convener of the Co-location Concern Group – said the group would not take legal action. Judicial reviews are considered by the Court of First Instance and examine the decision-making processes of administrative bodies. Issues under review must be shown to affect the wider public interest.

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'Darkest day': Democrats seethe as checkpoint bill clears way for mainland law at new Hong Kong rail station